Many community colleges will soon be known only as “colleges,” dropping the “community” tag from their names. Schools such as Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, Michigan, are expanding their programs to include four-year bachelor’s degrees and no longer want to be known as small-time local schools, says the WSJ:
Almost 40 colleges have dropped “community” from their names in the past decade, compared with about a dozen in the previous decade, according to data collected by Higher Education Publications Inc.While that represents a fraction of the roughly 1,200 junior colleges nationwide, the desire to move away from “community” is emblematic of two trends in higher education: the increasing prevalence of two-year institutions adding four-year degree courses and a broader rebranding effort among two-year schools to shed a stigma of poor graduation rates and a second-class status as vocational schools.Local workforce demands can motivate community colleges to add bachelor’s degrees, especially in areas that four-year schools don’t already offer. The programs veer toward more technical industries, rather than liberal arts, and are often only a small segment of their full offerings, which usually include associate degrees and certificates.
We wrote about community colleges moving into the market for bachelor’s degrees over the weekend. As we noted, this new development is a mixed bag: On the one hand, community colleges could offer cheaper and more convenient degrees to students; on the other, this may be a sign of credential inflation, as the market demands more bachelor’s degrees even though the two-year degree may prepare students adequately for their jobs. But as the trend picks up steam, we’ll be watching and hoping our skepticism is misplaced.